SUMMIT, NJ—Beginning with this year’s school winter sports season, sophomore, junior and senior athletes participating in interscholastic sports at Summit High School will have the option of “opting-oiut” of all physical education classes, except health, during a season in which they participate in a particular sport.
In announcing implementation of the policy, superintendent of schools Nathan Parker said the city district would have to make certain that, in its implementation, students met all state requirements for physical education.
New Jersey requires each student in grades K-12 participate in 150 hours of instruction in health, safety, and physical education each week.
However, in reporting on the board education committee’s discussion on implementation of the “opt-our” system, committee chairman Richard Hanley said there was some concern on the committee how the school district would deal with the state-mandated “option II” when the new physical education choice goes into effect.
Recently-adopted state regulations require all high schools to adopt “option II” policies and procedures, which permit a student or group of students to meet or exceed the core standards in any subject area through alternative activities. These activities may be school sponsored or accomplished outside the school.
Assistant superintendent of schools Julie Glazer explained that "option II" enables students to receive credit for activities, such as independent study, that they accomplish outside school, as long as those activities meet state standards. She said the board would have to decide how "option II" fits in with the physical education opt-out option, and adopt appropriate policies to deal with option II.
Glazer added this is the reason implementation of the opt-out policy is being delayed until the winter sports season and, responding to a question from Laura Colson of Blackburn Road, said student athletes currently in the pilot opt-out program -- before the board voted on the full opt-out option -- would not be eligible to continue opting out until the full program is implemented.
On another sports-related matter, Jim Abbott of 130 West End Avenue said those involved in the high school wrestling program were prepared to request that the wrestling program be funded through the school budget, as it is in other school districts.
Board president Celia Colbert responded that the school body would be discussing the funding of school sports as part of its budget preparation process for the upcoming year.
In another matter related to the education committee, Hanley reported that district supervisor of health and physical education, Michael Sandor. brought an informal proposal for a school-supported after-school driver education course to the committee at its meeting this month.
Hanley said the committee told Sandor the course would have to be budget-neutral, any risks to the district would have to be outlined before approval, there would have to be broad interest from students and parents, and Sandor would have to present figures on “intangible costs” of the program compared to those in other districts.
Parker said, after speaking with high school principal Paul Sears, he decided Sandor could be given the go-ahead to explore the proposal further.
On another important budgetary matter, Colbert announced that board negotiators would hold their first mediaton session on October 8 with representatives of the Summit Education Association (SEA) about the association’s contract, which expired on August 31.
Noting that the board and the educators’ group had been bargaining since December 2013, and that the parties had come to an impasse in May and decided to call in a state mediator.
She also noted some teachers had demonstrated at the high school, and middle school teachers had spoken about the contract talks in their classes..
The board president added, however, that association members still are reporting to school every school day and they continue with their duties under terms of the contract in existence on August 31.
She also said the board wanted to conclude negotiations as soon as possible, noting that, of 206 state districts whose contracts expired on June 30, 143 -- or 69 percent -- still had not settled on new contracts, and many districts whose educator contracts expired in 2013 still had not reached settlements.
Noting the spending difficulties the education body faces, including a two-percent cap on spending increases, Colbert said the SEA had sought salary increases that were inconsistent with the fiscal conditions under which the board was operating.
She added the board would continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a fair and equitable settlement that was in the best interest of Summit taxpayers as well as SEA members.
In response to a question from Melanie Wilson of Colonial Road, Sears said he saw a large range of times in which teachers come to work at the high school, but much of this range was due to personal circumstances and the fact that many teachers had small children.
He indicated he was not aware of any teacher giving less help to students due to the stalled contract negotiations.
Following a detailed presentation by Sears on various rankings of the Summit schools by state and national media organizations, resident Kristen Perrotti requested that the board make such presentations available to the public prior to the board meetings during which the presentations were to be made.
Colbert replied that the content of the programs often is posted on the board website following the presentations, but said Perrotti’s idea was a good one and the board would look into it.
She also announced that board workshop meetings would continue to be held at the board offices at Wilson School, but will begin at 7 p.m., as would regular board meetings, which now will take place at the high school without moving to various schools in the city.
The board president added that presentations by students and staff members from the various district schools would be held prior to the regular board meetings.
Parker also announced that district officials continued to be concerned with the security of city public schools with voting taking place in the schools. In the meantime, he said, the board has agreed to finance the presence of a city police officer to provide security in the schools during elections. He said assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe would meet on Friday with Police Chief Robert Weck and common council public safety chairman Patrick Hurley to discuss school secuity.